The empty cafe

A poem in Vietnamese by Tô Thùy Yên
Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

The empty cafe

Heading there, perhaps for a date

A date with whom I can’t remember

Heading there, a desiccated heart the hollowness of a ball

Grasping exhaustingly at earthly cravings

This afternoon was harsh with sunlight…

This afternoon was heavy with rain…

The empty cafe, not a soul a being in sight

The lamp is like a thousand years in waiting

My fault, it can only be my fault

Unable to recall the right time

I’m sorry, to you my apology

You came, and no one was there to meet you

Life is so mixed up

There’s no point rushing

Try anyway, hold it together

So it’s worth the trip

This afternoon was harsh with sunlight…

This afternoon was heavy with rain…

The empty cafe, the lamp is like 

A thousand years in waiting

Quán vắng vẻ

Đi đến đó, dường như ta có hẹn

Hẹn cùng ai, không nhớ rõ là ai

Đi đến đó, lòng khô như trái rỗng

Khua rụng rời nỗi đói khát trần ai

Chiều nay trời nắng gắt…

Chiều nay trời mưa dầm…

Quán vắng vẻ, không ai người đến gặp

Ngọn đèn như nỗi đợi thiên thu

Lỗi tự mình, lỗi tự mình thôi

Đã chẳng nhớ ra ngày tháng hẹn

Tội cho người, tội bấy cho người

Cũng đến đây chờ chẳng gặp ai

Việc đời lầm lẫn vậy

Hối mấy chẳng hơn gì

Thôi thì hãy cố nán

Cho đáng một lần đi

Chiều nay trời nắng gắt…

Chiều nay trời mưa dầm…

Quán vắng vẻ, ngọn đèn như nỗi đợi

Thiên thu

Nguồn: Tô Thùy Yên, Thơ tuyển, Minnesota, 1995


Tô Thuỳ Yên (1938-2019) real name was Đinh Thành Tiên, born in Go Vap, Gia Dinh, Vietnam, an alumnus at Petrus Ký and Đại học Văn khoa Sài Gòn. He was a teacher and journalist in Saigon, a Major in the Vietnam Army prior to 1975. After 1975 served 13 years in re-education camps, in 1993, he moved with his family to the United States as a former political prisoner.

Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, the poet and translator, was born in 1971 in Phu Nhuan, Saigon, Vietnam. The pharmacist currently lives and works in Western Sydney, Australia.

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

There's magic in translating a body of work from one language to another.

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